In the Restaurant is now out, and to celebrate the publication of this sumptuous exploration of the restaurant in all of its guises, we asked author Christoph Ribbat to pick his 5 favourite restaurants. Read on to find out about a German place serving top notch pickled herring, an absolute gem of a hole in the wall in Portugal and a very unusual bus station-turned-restaurant in Georgia.
Ausspann, Paderborn, Germany
A place down the street from where I teach. In the fall and winter, try Wurstebrei (a lesser form of haggis). Or actually: don’t. Their pickled herring’s terrific, though, and so, of course, is the Paderborner Gold on tap. At the bar the average age is 75. Conversations revolve around funerals, though in an oddly upbeat, life-affirming tone. Every other Tuesday we call the place from the office to make reservations and they always say they’re probably going to be full – then we go nonetheless and invariably get a table. Maybe they don’t want the university crowd. We’ll keep going.
El Porton, Bloomington, Illinois, United States
American writer David Foster Wallace once lived in town and legend has it that he wrote most of his masterpiece Infinite Jest at the local Denny’s franchise. Then he moved to California. Then El Porton opened. So there’s no connection whatsoever, really. But it’s a fantastic Mexican restaurant in the heart of the heart of the country.
The Grey, Savannah, Georgia, United States
Southern/African American cuisine served in a former bus station that was segregated in the Jim Crow Era. Writing In the Restaurant, I sometimes worried that I was focusing too much on political stories and not enough on culinary ones. The Grey reminded me that these two threads can’t be untied.
Cabana, Moledo do Minho, Portugal
Reading all these foodie stories for my book, I got more and more tired of a worn-out cliché in culinary writing. It goes like this: All the restaurants in plain view are touristy, inauthentic, overpriced – so the adventurous, though remarkably sensitive food writer walks away from the crowds, turns a corner, then another corner, and finds this incredible place, a hole in the wall, everyone’s favorite grandmother working in the kitchen – and here, the food is wonderful, the smiles are warm, and the tourist hordes have no idea what they’re missing. What a stereotype, I thought, until, in Moledo do Minho, Portugal, I walked away from the crowds, turned a corner, then another corner, found this incredible place, a hole in the wall, everyone’s favorite grandmother working in the kitchen – and? Yes.
Fäviken, Järpen, Jämtland, Sweden
I’m just putting this on the list so some multinational media outlet will send me there, all expenses paid, for a purple prose feature (word count negotiable).
Read more from Christoph in the pages of the wonderful In the Restaurant. Buy with free UK postage on the Pushkin shop >